Johnson seeks to retain portion of local sales tax for expansion of Yakima health sciences university

Bill would allow creation of health sciences and services authority

A new university in Yakima that trains primary care physicians could get a boost if a bill introduced by Rep. Norm Johnson is approved by the Legislature.

House Bill 1901 would allow a health sciences and services authority to be established in Yakima County. Johnson says once the authority is established, Yakima County could choose to retain 2/10ths of 1 percent of the sales tax generated in the county for expansion of the Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences.

“It’s the first medical school in the Pacific Northwest in 60 years. They have begun their first classes training 75 doctors with a focus on rural medicine,” said Johnson, R-Yakima. “This new source of funding would allow the school to expand its program so that more health care professionals and family practitioners can be trained and sent out into the field, especially in underserved rural areas. It doesn’t require tax increases. It just allows us to keep part of our existing sales tax revenues in Yakima County that would normally be sent to Olympia.”

Johnson said the university is a great economic boost to the Yakima area.

“It’s already providing local jobs. As the university expands, so will the local workforce. That means new homes, added employment, and increased consumer spending in our local businesses, restaurants and retail outlets,” added Johnson. “This bill is a winning proposition because it keeps part of our tax money at home to ultimately expand access to rural health care and stimulate our local economy.”

Under the bill, the state’s Higher Education Coordinating Board would make the decision of whether to approve a new taxing authority.

The measure has been referred to the House Higher Education Committee.

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Washington State House Republican Communications